Bullpen's wild inning costly on Jackie Robinson Night
Mattingly also voices concerns over offense's lack of timely hits
LOS ANGELES -- From the inspiration of Jackie Robinson Day to the anguish of the Boston tragedy, Don Mattingly's concerns with the Dodgers might seem trivial.
Nonetheless, after a 6-3 loss to the Padres on Monday night took the luster off a star-studded celebration of No. 42, Mattingly admitted his concerns, from an offense that can't score runs to a bullpen that can't prevent them.
As promised by the opposing managers, there were no on-field incidents of retaliation for last week's brawl that left Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke with a broken collarbone and Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin suspended eight games for causing the incident by charging the mound after being hit by a pitch.
There was former Dodgers pitcher Eric Stults -- a solid-enough hitter that he was used to pinch-hit last week -- slugging a three-run homer to left-center off Chad Billingsley in the second inning.
"I guess my power zone is opposite field," said Stults, the winning pitcher. "I don't pull too many balls. I was trying to just put a good swing on the ball."
After the Dodgers chipped away to tie the game in the fifth inning, five relievers followed Billingsley and issued six walks over the final 16 plate appearances, with San Diego scoring three runs on only two hits. The Padres had seven walks total, three of them scoring.
Ronald Belisario took the loss, his second. He came into this game having allowed all four inherited runners to score. So this time Mattingly brought him in to open the seventh inning and he failed to retire any of the three hitters he faced, with two scoring.
"A little," Mattingly said when asked if he was concerned about the bullpen. "We walked five in an inning in a game in San Diego. We come back, get one-one-one to tie and get to the guys in the bullpen we feel are our strength. Then a walk leads off.
"Beli, for me, has been a little inconsistent. One outing is really good, the next not as good. His stuff is good, but location ..."
Offensively, the Dodgers out-hit the Padres, 12-9, but in four of their six losses they've had the same or more hits than the opponent.
"The bottom line has been the problem -- scoring runs," Mattingly said. "We've been getting plenty of hits and guys on base, but we haven't been effective once they get out there. I've said it and I'll keep saying it -- we get that much traffic, we'll score a bunch of runs, but it hasn't played out yet."
The top five in the Dodgers' order had 10 hits, Carl Crawford leading with three and Matt Kemp bouncing back with a pair. Even Luis Cruz had a hit, raising his average to .111, but Mattingly conceded he's worried there, too.
"He's a concern, a little more than Matt," Mattingly said, "because Luis doesn't have the same track record as Matt. His fly balls tell you the story and not a good one. Too many of them. He hasn't swung the bat to this point."
Cruz was icing his right wrist after the game, explaining that it was sore from too much one-handed batting practice before the game. But he said he made an adjustment in his unconventional leg lift he thinks will help.
The Dodgers scored on a ground-rule double by Adrian Gonzalez, a two-out RBI single by Crawford and an RBI single by A.J. Ellis.
But Ellis also chided himself for a baserunning mistake that killed a rally in the eighth after reaching base on an infield single, followed by Andre Ethier's walk and a sacrifice bunt by Cruz.
Pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker's bouncer up the middle was flagged by pitcher Luke Gregerson, but Ellis thought it would get through. He broke for the plate, stopped when Gregerson looked at him, then tried to score when Gregerson threw to first, but Yonder Alonso's throw home nailed him.
Mattingly said Ellis should have kept running home or induced a rundown, with either option avoiding a double play.
"I was caught in no-man's land," Ellis said. "It was a tough read. A poor baserunning decision. Something I'm kicking myself about. Initially I read the ball past the pitcher, but Luke bounced off the mound and made a play and looked and froze me. A heads-up play by him and bad play by me."
Belisario, who has struggled early this year, loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh after taking over for Billingsley. Paco Rodriguez inherited the jam, and got ahead of pinch-hitter Chris Denorfia 0-2 but walked him to break the tie. Alonso hit into a double-play that glanced off Rodriguez's glove to shortstop Justin Sellers, and Guzman scored for a 5-3 lead.
Billingsley wasn't as sharp as he was last week in San Diego, but he battled out of jams after the homer and kept the game close.
"Early on I didn't have good rhythm, but as the game went on it got better," he said.